The E-mail dead-letter office

Dead Letter Office

The past few weeks, the White House has been telling the Press Corps that they’ve magically “lost” some 5 million-odd email messages. Which is probably one of the most ludicrous statements ever made in public in relation to any computer network system. The more time flies, the more ridiculous the bag of excuses become and the most insulting to the very base of computer systems administration and computer engineering.

Let’s cut to the chase and ignore the Devil in all of those details. All of it’s irrelevant anyway. In a nutshell: Bush takes the White House in 2000 and the Republican National Convention gives some of his staff computer equipment such as notebook computers, Blackberries, PDA’s or whatever. The Presidential Records Act (1978) requires:

the president to preserve all presidential records, which are defined as those records relating to the “activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of [the president’s] constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties. . .”

So the law states that these White House staffers can use those RNC personal computers for anything BUT doing the job they’ve been assigned to do. If they wanna send an email to the RNC on why Republican Senator George Allen (R-PA) lost his election last November, they can use the RNC machine…no problem. But they don’t pay any attention to the law – but rather use whatever computer notebook is handy.

Dana Perino first showed up stating that they had lost email messages. Then she comes out to say that they’ve lost a lot of email messages, a stunning 5,000,000 of them to be guessed at. Then she shows up and says she just doesnt’ know what she’s talking about – there’s email lost, but everybody’s confused as to exactly what’s been lost.

CNN’s White House correspondent Ed Henry then pressed her on why she had earlier stated that RNC emails had been archived for a very long time when the White House now claims that those emails have been lost. On March 27, Perino said RNC archiving was “something that was in place” for years. Today, she backed off that statement and said, “We have developed a better understanding of how the RNC archived or did not archive certain e-mails.” She refused to further elaborate.

You see, here’s where they find themselves in the pinch. Since some of their data has been used on those RNC machines, the Democratically controlled Congress has a right to ask for that data – under the law. And if they’re allowed to rummage through RNC file servers…well, now you know why email messages are missing – err… allegedly missing.

And, again…this is all pure rubbish.

I’ve been a computer network engineer for about twenty seven years. I’ve managed email servers on Sun Solaris networks, on Microsoft based networks, Novell networks, even a few odd-ball networks….and guess what: “Saying we’ve lost email” is unacceptable under any circumstance.

Had a fire in the computer room? Unacceptable.

Had a hard drive crash? Unacceptable.

Contracted a virus? Nope! Not acceptable.

Had a computer hacker? Ooops… Umm… Not acceptable.

The New York Times:

“This sounds like the administration’s version of the dog ate my homework,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the dismissal of the prosecutors.

Senator Leahy happens to be correct, at least he’s being “nice”.

There is no reason for any lost data, under any circumstance.Tape Backup Whether you’re a professional computer systems administrator at a local pharmacy or a network engineer working in the White House. It’s called “a tape backup”. And if your latest tape backup is corrupt, you go back to the previous tape backup.

This tape backup unit is made by HP, it’s a nice little unit. You would use this on a machine with a few gigabytes of data.Terrabyte

However, this one is a great big backup system. It holds “terrabytes” of data. This is the kind of a backup system that the White House networks would be using.

These White House fools are claiming that they’ve lost 5 million email messages over the past three to four years. And yet they have no tape backups for this data?

Ummmmm…I don’t think so.